Yet another fringe theory about the sinister motives behind “Forever” stamps, this time from Newt Gingrich. Newt thinks “Forever” stamps are a new concept that will inevitably lead to bankruptcy and, of course, A TAXPAYER BAILOUT!! Apparently no one explained to Newt that Forever stamps have been around for several years now, and so far the USPS has been doing just fine, thank you, at least as far as its own operations are concerned. Without the $5.6 billion a year being siphoned off by Congress, it would have been running a profit. But that doesn’t fit Newt’s world view, so he makes up his own facts. “Union work rules” are of course to blame, although I’ve yet to see the “rule” that requires the USPS “to pay a large group of employees more than a million dollars a week to do nothing”. Neither has Newt, of course…
Post Office Bait and Switch
A new initiative by the U.S Postal Service that appears on the surface to be a good deal for customers is in fact setting the stage for bankruptcy and a future bailout of the Post Office with taxpayer money.
This week, U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahue plans to announce that all future stamps sales will be so-called ‘forever stamps,’ which can still be used even if postage rates go up.
Anyone who has had to hunt around for 1 or 2 cent stamps to add to their old stamps after an increase may consider this good news.
However, consider the implications of this action. The Post Office is currently experiencing a severe budget deficit and has been unable to gain approval for a postal rate increase. In addition, they are threatening to stop delivering mail on Saturdays as a way to cut costs. As Peter Schiff astutely points out in this interview with The Daily Bell, the Post Office is trying to solve their short term revenue problems at the cost of even bigger problems down the road.
The Post Office will try to use any short term increase in sales from these forever stamps to solve their immediate fiscal problems. But if the Post Office is already having trouble operating at full capacity with current prices, imagine how difficult it will be to do so in five or ten years after inflation has pushed their costs up AND they are selling even fewer stamps because so many people already purchased them in the past.
In fact, this move is setting the stage for a future taxpayer bailout of the Post Office because it virtually guarantees its future bankruptcy.
The low price of stamps is not the reason why the Post Office is facing such huge deficits. The Post Office is seeking a 5.6% increase in the price of stamps despite an inflation rate of just 0.6%.
Instead, the Post Office is facing budget shortfalls because it is unwilling to engage in the necessary reform of its operations necessary in the modern economy.
As I discussed in To Save America, which is now out in an updated paperback version, the Post Officeâ€™s union work rules require it to pay a large group of employees more than a million dollars a week to do nothing. Instead of being able to lay off redundant workers, the Post Office (and by extension, every American who uses the mail) keeps them on salary through a program called ‘standby time.’
If the Post Office really wants to solve its fiscal challenges, it needs to engage in the difficult work of reforming its operating procedures, including its suffocating and costly union work rules like ‘standby time.’
Congress should block the Post Office from implementing this genuinely dumb move and force it to confront the true cause of its budget woes and implement real reform.